A fun crafts activity to explain computers to tots

Mommy, the computer is out of INTERNET, we need to CHARGE it! my son replied when I asked him why he was fiddling with the plug and the power cord.

My 4 year old boy had a point. The computer was out of battery. So while helping him with the plug, I thought in loud voice: “Ah … the battery is empty. The internet is fine” and I wanted to return to whatever I was doing at the moment. But then a little voice asked “Mommy, what is internet?” And I froze.

How do you explain a 4 year old what the Internet is? 

And how do you explain how a computer – or a tablet or smartphone – works?
That’s how I started looking for ways to explain technology to my little ones. So I was very happy when I saw the invitation to test one of the games from the Hello Ruby book where the kids could make their own computer and learn how it works. That was exactly what I was looking for!

Hello Ruby Paper Computer Crafts for Kids

So I got hold of it and we started to play and learn about technology !
The goal was to assemble a computer, install an operating system, select the software and design a webpage, application or game. In the meantime we all learned about the hard and soft components needed to build a computer.

It was one of the best and meaningful crafts session we had in a long time!

Hello Ruby Paper Laptop Crafts for Kids

Do you want to know what we did and maybe do the same paper computer with your kid(s)? 

Then this is what you’ll need to make your own Hello Ruby laptop:
– print the PDF with the computer and accessories
– print the play instructions (it will help you run the session)
– some pieces of cardboard (about the size of an A5)
– glue and transparent tape
– colored pencils
– and a real computer (so you can go online and ask the mighty Internet all the questions you don’t know the answer to yourself)

Later on we also used:
– some empty pieces of paper (because my kids wanted to create more computer stuff)
– 2 paper clips and a piece of thread (for our mouse) – although you can do without these if you decide to make a “wireless one” 🙂

So armed with the materials and having a curious 6 year old and an eager 4 year old by my side, we got started.

STAGE 1: Preparation

Lukas decided to first cut everything out before starting, while Victoria wanted to just cut out the pieces when she needed them. Each kid has it’s way of doing things. That’s cool.

As support for our paper computers we used cardboard. I took pieces form a cardboard box so they would have a fold in the middle of each piece, this way our creations look even more like laptops.

Hello Ruby Paper Laptop Crafts for Kids

While the kids were cutting and gluing, we discussed about what each component is and what it is used for. We went online to see how the components look and we made parallels to the things they are familiar with. And in the end, I think we more or less understood everything. It was as much a lesson for them as it was for me. If you want to read more details on the explanation I gave about each component – and the associations I made for their little minds to better understand each point – have a look over here.

STAGE 2: Assembly

After the discovery phase, we started to assemble the paper computer.

Hello Ruby Paper Laptop Crafts for Kids

We used glue for most parts except the website and the keyboard. For those we used transparent tape because the kids decided they want to be able to access the inside of the computer and its files.

Hello Ruby Paper Laptop Crafts for Kids

This way if a component would get broken or a file would get corrupt they could reach it and fix it. Good thinking – right?

Hello Ruby Paper Laptop Crafts for Kids

They of course added a camera and a start button also using the stickers, and the computer files and operating system so that it could start functioning.

STAGE 3: Development

After examining his laptop, Lukas pointed out that it needs a battery – because he now knows that battery and internet are 2 vital parts needed in order to watch his favorite YouTube cartoons 😉 But he was not in the mood to make one. He just wanted to make a point that it’s missing from his paper computer.

Victoria decided that she wanted to have access to more webpages. That’s because she wanted to be able to look at movies, at pictures and to read. So she started designing them.

Hello Ruby Paper Laptop Crafts for Kids

And then she told me that she’d like to have a mouse. So after a bit of discussion about how it should look, I helped her design one. Here’s my work of art !

Hello Ruby Paper Laptop Crafts for Kids

I was so proud of my idea to connect the cord using paper clips! I thought it’s super cool … That’s until Lukas asked me: “Why did you make that?” – pointing to the cable of the mouse – “Granma’s mouse has no cable“. Ah … a wireless mouse. I forgot about that!

Well, some of them are smarter than others,” I said, “you can use it with or without the cable, you choose.” And that seemed to be a good enough explanation for him. Luckily for me because I had no clue how to approach the wireless technology with my 4 year old. So I was happy to leave this for another time 🙂

STAGE 4: Testing

Once everything was properly made – the components in their place, the proper files and operating system installed – the testing could start. How did it go?  …. I’ll let you judge from the pictures 🙂

Hello Ruby Paper Laptop Crafts for Kids

Notice the comfortable keyboard and the fast browsing speed?
Hello Ruby Paper Laptop Crafts for Kids

In conclusion, I’m now happy to present you the coolest, sleekest newest gadget in the house: The revolutionary HelloRuby laptop! 

Hello Ruby Paper Laptop Crafts for Kids

What’s next?

This is a prototype, and I invite you to test it also. If you do, keep a note of the questions the kids ask, what interests them and what are the speed bumps. We’d love to see pictures of the finished computers! You can submit your pictures and notes here.

If you want to read more about my play experiences with the kids, join the CreatifulKids mailing list and be the first to know when new articles are available.

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